This is not a sponsored post; this is simply my free opinions about Amtrak train service.
“Why don’t you just fly out?”
Simple question, right? It was a legitimate question asked to invoke an answer to my problem. I had planned a quick, impromptu trip south to learn a little calligraphy, take a few photos, see a show, all the good things, but one not-so-good thing: Amtrak had delayed my arrival time into Chicago. This change was going to push my schedule out a bit too far for me to believe I was going to make it to Hamilton (this was, of course, assuming that the Empire Builder would encounter no further delays…which is not the trend while on the train, as Amtrak does not own the tracks over this way, so they are at the mercy of the freight trains). Just like while waiting at stop arms, I was at a standstill: Do I stay or go a different way?
My response was a resounding “I don’t fly domestically.” So stay was my way for this round of time off.
So, as I type this from a coffee shop in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, instead of a cafe in Chicago, you might think what many do when I tell this story; you might be wondering “If your modes of transportation impact your vacation, why do you stick with it so strongly? How and why would you ever think of traveling by train if it can be this unreliable?”
Well, that’s what I want to tell you. I want to tell you the top five reasons why I will always choose Amtrak when I am going on vacation.
I AM (OFTEN) NOT IN A HURRY. This vacation was an anomaly–I only have five days to get from Grand Rapids to Minneapolis-St. Paul to Chicago and back, really only leaving me two days in Chicago. That’s not generally how I vay-cay. Because I am not a impromptu adventurer, Amtrak fits with my style of American travel: It is slow and savory, allowing me to soak in the surroundings. I get to see a different view of our country through train travel as it is a different vantage point that from above or along the highway. Being that I generally never vacation in a hurry (a feeling I dislike more than stress, a stubbed toe, and a sore throat combined), it is perfect.
IT IS CONSISTENTLY INEXPENSIVE. The rate for rail travel seems to be the same every time I check; ever since my first Amtrak adventure in 2009, to Chicago and back is approximately $100 ($106 this time, to be specific). A quick visit to hotwire.com showed me that a trip of the same distance would be over $200 for airfaire (and this is of course varies depending on so many different things. I don’t like variables when it comes to pricing, which is why I was never a very good extreme couponer. I like a low price that I can depend on, and that comes with Amtrak).
I AM CONSISTENTLY AFRAID TO FLY. I believe in full disclosure, so I feel I need to tell you that flying, it freaks me out. Unless there are no other options, flying is not an option. Yes, I have been abroad, but the last time I checked there was no bridge to the Middle East. Cunard Cruises from NYC to England are on my bucket list, specifically this one. Domestically, I channel my inner-Sheldon (which isn’t too far down inside) and ride the rails.
THE GENEROSITY WHEN IT COMES TO LUGGAGE IS ASTOUNDING. Two carry-on pieces, two checked suitcases, coolers, food, you name it (except hamsters). If planning an extended vacations where more than just a carry-on is needed, Amtrak supplies the space (and then some).
REMEMBER, I LOVE STORIES. MORE TIME WITH NEW FRIENDS = MORE (COLORFUL, INTERESTING, UNIQUE) STORIES. When I was in middle school, my dream job was to be able to sit and hear amazing narratives that I could re-tell. Sitting on a train for 8 hours, then, provides ample time to meet people and talk to them about their journey–both the literal and metaphorical.
In my wanderings, Amtrak has served me well, and I am not just talking about the Signature Railroad French Toast breakfast that I had on the Lakeshore Limited that was amazing. The train has taken me through countryside that I never imagined existed to arrive in new cities that I had always dreamed of seeing. It’s not always quick nor super-glamourous, but it is classic, and worth it right there. The next time you venture out on vacation, think about giving Amtrak another look…you might see something you never thought you would.